One bit of news that some of you might have missed out last week cockled my patriotic Indian heart to the fullest. Yes, I am talking about the unveiling of the Aakash2 tablet at the United Nations by the UN Secretary General H.E. Ban Ki-moon. Ki- moon congratulated India on its Presidency of the Security Council during an 'extremely challenging month' and emphasized that India was a critical player on security issues. Terming India as a 'superpower on the information superhighway' , he appreciated the launch of technologies such as the Aakash2, which helped bridge the digital divide.
Calling them as 'great enablers' with potential to transform people's lives, he encouraged partners around the world to work with the United Nations to help young people reach for the sky and meet their dreams. He further emphasized that by partnering with key initiatives such as Aakash2, the UN development system would be able to 'force multiply' to achieve the MDGs of universal education and global partnership.
Now lots of bad press has been given to Aakash2 and without going into the merits of all the allegations, what pleases me that an Indian product has really made it to the global centerstage. A product that has the potential to become the 'iPad killer' though the architect of the device does not agree to the sobriquet.
Rather Suneet Singh Tuli feels that the aim was not to create an 'Ipad killer' but to create a device for the most needy sections of society at costs that they could easily afford. Terming it a product of 'frugal innovation', he outlined that the device incorporated that best of innovative hardware design with a unique business model, and reflected Government of India's commitment to eliminating illiteracy by equipping all 220 million students in India over the next 5 years with low cost computers & Internet.
Noble intentions, no doubt, though I am not sure how much it could really help to eradicate illiteracy. And I am not interested much in the political or philanthropic oneupmanship on whether this would really become a social game changer. I am more interested in whether its global publicity (that too at the UN in front of an audience of 500 plus invitees, including 65 Ambassadors/PRs, media delegates, NGOs and select members of the Indian community) could be successfully leveraged commercially in the Indian market.
More than the iPad or other high-end models, it has been more the low-cost tablets that have captured the Indian market. Many of them are already getting a proper distribution model in place. Now it is the time that Aakash too uses its global 'hi-fi image' to create a proper distribution network in place. Though in the last few months I have often asked Tuli what he plans to do for the channel, he has always been evasive on it.
Now with the UN accolade behind him and the endorsement of the UN Secretary General, it is high time Tuli does something on this. Only then the sky will be the limit, both physically and metaphorically, for Aakash2.